Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash

Shadow Attorney-General

Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations

Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate

Senator for Western Australia




Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus must urgently act to give judges in the Federal Circuit and Family Courts protection from being found personally liable in matters over which they preside.

Media reports revealed that some judges have indicated they will refuse to sit on cases until the matter is dealt with by the Attorney-General.

The situation arises following the matter of Stradford (a pseudonym) v Judge Vasta in which Judge Vasta, a judge of Division 2 of the Federal and Family Court was found personally liable in respect to proceedings over which he presided.

Shadow Attorney-General Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash wrote to Mr Dreyfus a week ago asking him to act urgently on the matter and pledging to work constructively with the Government in relation to any legislation required to ensure judges can exercise their judicial functions without fear or favour.

“Attorney General Dreyfus’s inaction means we are now in a situation where some judges may refuse to sit on cases,’’ she said.

“Mr Dreyfus’s incomprehensible refusal to address the issue has put the administration of justice in this country at risk,’’ Senator Cash said.

“It is Australian families who will feel the effects of this incompetence. These matters must be addressed as a matter of urgency,’’ she said.

“In my letter to Mr Dreyfus, for which I have not had a reply as yet, I pointed out that the judgment may have profound implications for the administration of justice in our country,’’ Senator Cash said.

Senator Cash’s letter said: “Immunity from suit serves a critical role in ensuring that a judicial officer can make decisions based on the merits of the case and the application of law.

“It allows a judge to perform their role free from external influences such as a fear of personal liability.

“Members of the judiciary and the legal profession have raised concerns that, following the judgment, there is now significant uncertainty around the limits of judicial immunity, with potential adverse consequences for our legal system.

“In your capacity as First Law Officer, I ask that you urgently progress options to restore certainty to our judiciary—whether legislative or non-legislative.”